Kelli Anderson is an artist. She gave this TEDx talk and right at the beginning, she tells the audience what is the purpose of her work:
People arrive at experiences with expectations. And when we make things we are actively choosing what to do with those expectations. In my work I want to create disruptive wonder, I want to confound these expectations. Because I think that everyday fundamental things and experiences frame reality in ways we often take for granted.
That is a very personal purpose. This is a far cry from “I want my work to help others”. It is true that for many of us, when asked, “what is the purpose of your work?”, we are either dumbfounded or we give incorrect answers such as “we do it for the money” or “we do it for the passion”.
Profit and passion are results, not reasons.
The first step is to find one’s purpose for work. Why do you work? The way Ms Anderson has gone about describing her “why” is a great example of how this can be done. It reeks of personal thought, highly unique, deeply possessive even.
The words “disruptive wonder” may make sense to some, but it only rings true for someone who latches onto it.
When someone hears that you are into “disruptive wonder to help people frame reality in ways that they didn’t expect”, will that someone pay attention to what you have to say?
Most of them will not. But then, some will. It is those “some” that are part of the tribe, people who share a part of your purpose.
Our voice is best understood by these people. And we need to deliberately find these people.
At the beginning, I said that Kelli Anderson is an artist. I think she is. I don’t know. What I do know that she is deep in her work. And that is rare. And inspiring. Hope this inspires you too.
Steve Jobs captures the essence of how to bring about massive change in your life.
In the above clip, Steve says:
When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and you’re life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family, have fun, save a little money.
That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.
Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.
The One Thing
The one thing that you can learn is to realize your own power. You can change.
And as importantly, realize that we tend to over-estimate the power of others.
Once you get thinking on these lines, the following question can add some juice to it:
I wonder what I can change in my life right now that is hindering my growth?
Isn’t that a powerful question?
I wish you the best in answering this, and achieving the kind of success you want and need. Aameen.
“Of course the political movement was necessary, so what if the corrupt ruling elite declared it illegal? It was right although it was illegal.”
“Of course Hitler was a mass murderer!”
Never forget, whatever Hitler did was legal – Martin Luther King.
But standing on the right side of an argument as it happens is not that easy.
During the struggle for Pakistan, it was easy to be wrong. The Quaid-e-Azam (meaning: Father of the Nation) Mohammad Ali Jinnah actually changed his decision; he first tried for a unified India! But then his struggle was – in totality – for a separate country. But a handful of Muslim Ulemas and religious parties were against this separate homeland business. Those same religious parties – realizing their folly – became the biggest supporter of Pakistan after the creation of the country.
I do realize that each and every line in the above paragraph can be an argument itself. But we are not looking at political arguments, we are looking at a much simpler and harder construct: the moral argument.
There is a compass inside each of us, that always points to true North. We are normally able to decide, in an instant, which option is morally better. What we do about it is a different matter altogether.
That in-built, little compass pays no attention to our desires, our affiliations, and silently points to what is right. We know. We don’t even have to look deep inside; we just need to ask ourselves, “is this the better thing to do?” The answer comes very quickly. Almost scary.
But what do we do about it?
Pakistan’s current political turmoil is a classic example: the second largest political party in Pakistan has taken to the streets, with a sit-in in front of the Parliament and a call for civil disobedience. The sit-in is entering into its 33rd day as I write this.
So, one group wants a free and fair re-election. The ruling party, after admitting that the elections were not fair, has decided to stop them.
The ruling party makes the rules. Only a few days ago, they ended up “arresting” more than 3000 people. Three. Thousand. People. No charge, just arrests. All that in one day.
Never forget, whatever Hitler did was legal
The easier question is, “do you want a free and fair election?” The compass points to a solid ‘yes’. But what do we do now?
That’s where the argument gets messy.
Go out on the streets? Or just wait it out? Support the protesters and risk anarchy, or support the government and risk nothing?
For me, the important question is where do I stand on this…
Going on the streets will make it happen? No one knows.
Will waiting it out help? Never did.
So after compass points out the truth, the rational mind comes in and helps us pick. If the options are “who knows” and “never works”, it is better to pick “who knows” because the other we know “never works”. Maybe we can make it work. Right?
My job is not to convince you. My attempt is to remove the presentation layer, and arrive at the core. So one can decide.
It is better to decide and be ready to be proven wrong, than to not decide at all.
But standing on the right side of an argument, on the right side of a cause, on the side of Truth – that’s not easy. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the test: our decisions in tougher times.
I hope you choose the right side, even if it is not the side that I’m on. And more importantly, I hope you do pick a side. Raise the stakes, get your skin in the game, make it count.
200 kilometers away from home, my Mehran parked under the shade, I watch as the tractor pulled away. The trolley being pulled by the tractor is filled with bags of wheat. On its way to be sold to the government.
Agriculture was profitable back then, and I was happily – and silently – thanking God for the good harvest and it was safe to say, I was in a good mood.
“Mubarak ho sir jee,” Afzal says, “this is good,” nodding toward the bags of wheat that were huddled together in my crop shed. He’s the munchee – the manager – of the landlord. Tall, fat and an uncontestedly-elected Nazim of the area, Afzal was always helpful. And courteous.
“Chai ho jai!” he says. Yes. Tea would be nice. He knew, from the two years or so of my sporadic visits, my weakness: I can never turn down tea.
So from my small crop shed, we get out of the car and start walking towards the milk center.
Now consider this for a moment: Pakistan is in the top 5 milk producing countries in the world. Punjab is, by far, the largest milk producing province within Pakistan. And two districts in Punjab produce the most milk. In one of those districts, one of the largest milk contractor had his largest milk collection center right next to my leased land. He collected thousands upon thousands of liters of milk every day at this milk center alone. Collecting the milk to sell it to the big milk marketing companies.
It was at this milk center that we sit. The manager of the milk center comes out, greets us and without asking or being told, straight away orders three cups of tea. Wheat is our staple diet, tea is our staple drink.
We talk about the wheat crop, the weather and the milk business. I tell him how I got a 49 maund average over 140 acres and how my partner is pleased with the cash flow. Maybe now I would upgrade from the Mehran to a Baleno. That’d be nice.
He tells me that anticipating the summers, he’s operating on a one point five rupee margin, bringing in some serious cash for the milk center.
I tell him that it’s impressive how his hard work’s paying off. He nods, happy with the praise.
During our engrossing discussions, we are told that the small kitchen – that was within one of the largest milk center in the largest milk-producing province of one of the largest milk-producing countries in the world – is out of milk.
“You guys out of milk! Now that is impressive,” I say. Even Afzal manages a giggle.
But then something remarkable happened: the milk center manager told the tea boy (who was really an old man, not a boy), to go to the tea stall in the nearby market and get some milk. I couldn’t help but ask, “why not take a quarter liter from the thousands that you have in store?”
“O no sir jee,” he smiles, “this milk is not fit for consumption.”
The problem was glaringly obvious. And sitting there, I had this urge of somehow playing my part in providing a solution.
Can I provide good, “drinkable” milk honestly and profitably to people who do not know the difference?
I started selling milk a few months later. In a small vicinity around my house in Lahore, serving up to hundred and fifty houses. I sold milk for about five years, and the enterprise was profitable from the start. Alhumdulillah.
For many, the profits I got were equivalent to – and nothing more than – a healthy pocket money. I was told that “real businessmen” would sell more and more. So I guess I am not a “real businessman”, but I do feel happy that I started something based on the notions of solving a problem, instead of earning a profit.
Starting and doing something “just for the money” is perfectly and absolutely fine. But I felt – and still feel – that there is a far more fulfilling way of starting something.
Unashamedly, I call it for-profit philanthropy.
Find a problem, provide a solution and make it easy for the transaction of money to take place; I think this is the easiest definition of an entrepreneur.